An improved Cambodia performance was not enough to prevent their third consecutive defeat on Tuesday night in Phnom Penh, as they went down 4-0 to Iraq in their fourth game of the second round of qualifying for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
The campaign also serves as the second round of 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualification and, although the Angkor Warriors are propping up Group C with just a point from four games, they will at least have a play-off match to attempt to book a place in China.
Despite a humiliating 14-0 defeat in Iran last Thursday, there was an electric atmosphere at Olympic Stadium as 48,258 fans marked the seventh anniversary of the death of beloved late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.
It was always going to be a daunting task against an Iraq side ranked 79th in Fifa’s rankings, with Cambodia placed 169th, and the Lions of Mesopotamia duly took control from the start.
Iraq’s Group C campaign had seen them draw 1-1 away with 105th-ranked Bahrain and beat Hong Kong, 143rd, 2-0 at home, either side of scoreless draw in a friendly against world No88 Uzbekistan.
The Angkor Warriors, meanwhile, came into the match having achieved a creditable 1-1 home draw against Hong Kong before falling 1-0 to Bahrain at Olympic Stadium, followed by the battering in Tehran against Asia’s highest ranked side.
Iraq took the lead in the 22nd minute, with Ibrhahim Bayesh heading in from close range after a Humam Tariq cross was nodded on by Alaa Abdul-Zahra.
Cambodia did well to keep the score at 1-0 until just before half-time, but on 41 minutes the Angkor Warriors gave the ball away in their own half and 19-year-old striker Mohanad Ali scored with another header, latching onto a great cross from defender Ali Adnan.
The second half progressed in similar fashion and in the 57th minute Iran scored the goal of the game as unmarked midfielder Amjad Attwan unleashed a 30-yard screamer into the top corner leaving Cambodia keeper Keo Soksela no chance.
Just five minutes later, Iraq scored their fourth with centre-half Ahmad Ibrahim Khalaf latching on to a Bashar Resan corner to head powerfully past Soksela.
Despite the defeat, and the likelihood that Cambodia will not be heading into round three of World Cup qualifying, the Angkor Warriors can take pride in their display and, as the Kingdom looks forward to hosting the 2023 Southeast Asian Games, there is plenty of time to consolidate and improve.
Next up for Cambodia is a trip to Hong Kong on November 19.